iPad Accessory Review: Sony Speaker Dock RDP-X700IP

Article first published as iPad Accessory Review: Sony Speaker Dock RDP-X700IP on Blogcritics.

Speaker docks for iPods have become increasingly commonplace, and a wide range of options can be easily found at both your local drugstore and at your favorite electronics retailer. Docks that can accommodate a larger tablet device (i.e. an iPad) are also flooding the market, and I got a chance to test a fine performing one from Sony, the RDP-X700IP.  Billed as a "premium" iPad speaker dock, I was pleased to fill my office with sounds from both music and movies, as well as test the AirPlay wireless functionality.

Sony Does It Again With Design
As mentioned in my review of the Sony Vaio S laptop series, I've always been enamored with Sony's level of design. Sound systems are no less coveted, as I recall one of my earliest "boom boxes" to be a cool dual cassette Sony machine with wait for it...detachable speakers (wired, of course).  Even in the last decade, when shopping for a CD player for one of my first apartments, I spent a little extra for a design oriented Sony "Hi-Fi" micro component system. Now that the CD player is more commonly found in thrift stores and garage sales, Sony has shifted some of its mobile audio focus to speaker docks, and the minimalist design of the RDP-X700IP figures to add a great looking speaker to your coffee table or bookshelf.  A single brushed stainless steel control panel with only a few small buttons and even smaller indicator lights lines the top of a mountain shaped speaker. The device features a small popout tray for your iPod (most models), iPhone, or iPad to rest and connect.  The tray is deep enough to accommodate most cases, so this piece was well thought out from the beginning. The rear of the speaker contains just a few input plugs (LAN, power, and auxiliary in) so overall, the design emphasizes the speaker and that's probably how it should be for a speaker dock. The compact form factor can be conveniently carried, moved, and setup in seconds in new locations, though you'll need to be close to an outlet as there's no battery in this baby.

Sounding Off
With so few buttons to press, one would think that the speaker dock would be easy to operate. For the most part this was the case, as I streamed some Pandora tunes in seconds using the Play/Pause button and the volume control.  Without a visual notification of volume control however, I wasn't sure where I stood in terms of volume output until I just tested both the minimum and maximum ends of the spectrum.  Sound quality was crisp and the dock easily filled the room. The built in subwoofer provided plenty of bass for my tastes, but true audiophiles will likely not be in the market for speaker dock. Airplay setup was considerably more challenging and without the help of the online manual, Honestly, I spent a considerable amount of time before consulting the instructions (typical guy) to no avail. Once both the iPad and the Sony dock were connected on the same network and setting up the dock through the web control panel, I was able to stream audio directly and wirelessly from the iPad to the dock.

Extra, Extras
In addition to providing a robust sound system for your iPad, the Sony RDP-X700IP quickly gave my iPad a boost in power by charging it while in use. Upon first connection, you'll likely be prompted to download an optional iOS application called D-Sappli. Once in the app, I was able to connect the speaker dock to the correct wireless network, thus ensuring that both devices were on the same wavelength. The app included both timer options (alarms, music play, sleep) and clock features (24-hour, date display and seven relatively mundane clock styles).  Finally, an included mini-remote control adds more mobility in case you're not taking advantage of the Airplay functionality and would rather leave your iPad sitting pretty on the dock.

The Sony RDP-X700IP is competitively priced in the premium speaker dock market at $399.99. It can be purchased direct from Sony through store.sony.com.

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